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Thursday, June 23, 2011


The week-old $310K offer on our house---initially a stack of twelve or so Edina Realty documents signed by the buyer and us (the seller)---morphed somehow into a bloated, yet ravenous creature, capable of seeking, finding and gnawing the raw ends of my emotions, exposing the  bones of my lesser self.    While I must remain aware at all times since he’s still out there ready to pounce, I can’t help but wonder from whence he comes.  What exhumed corpse?  What House of Frankenstein? 
The story’s getting ahead of itself.  Who is this monster?  First, let me tell you who he isn’t. 
He is not our broken furnace.  Yes, our boiler broke this week.   (Ahhh!!!   There, that felt belter).  You should have smelled my indignation when our buyer’s inspector suggested that our boiler might be unsafe.  You should have seen my widening eyes when I called Centerpoint Gas Company’s service line and they told me to get out of the house while they paratroop in their SWAT team.  You should have felt my terror turn to humiliation turn to anger when they tied the red sticker of death upon our carbon monoxide-leaking boiler.

“How much is a new boiler?,” I finally squeaked out.
“$5000,” he shrugged.
Turns out it could go as high as $7K.   When we’d already spent $15K plus 3 brutal months of our own blood, sweat and tears prepping our house for market, let’s just say that Friday was a bad day for Mike and leave it that.   Yet, still not monstrous.
He is not negotiation: that terrifying, aggravating, even thrilling game of tractor chicken (play Holding Out for a Hero here  ).    The buyers asked for $2000 to cover their cost of problems discovered in their inspection.  We countered, not only saying no to the $2000 but that they needed to pay the entire cost of the furnace.  I felt so smug, thinking I had them since we were willing to stay on the tractor and let the entire deal die if they didn’t go for it.  Now they plan to withdraw their $2000 request, leaving us no legal opening to ask for anything.  I actually laughed when I first heard it:  outwitted by a technicality.  Now they get a new furnace at their original offer price of $310K.  Irritated as I am, this is still not the monster of which I speak.
So who is this creature?  I’m talking about the monster of opaqueness, crawled from the murky swamp of anonymity.  
You see, we’ve never met these buyers.  Nor their realtor.   Never heard their voices.   Only once, from afar, did we spy them leaving our house, getting into their car.  We’ve seen an MLS photo of their St. Louis Park house (hmmm…can they really afford ours?).  So Bill Minge, our exacting and tireless Edina Realty realtor, becomes their talking head:  the voice of the other side. 
Ho my gosh, what atrocities are possible when you do not know someone?   Understand someone?  Recognize their children?  What of road rage?  What of the studied and brutal nature of children on the internet compared to live interaction with their peers. 
Ho my gosh what healing ever occurred from afar, without a commitment to build relationship? My dear friend Missy and I reminisced over that very thing over eggs at Gigi’s this week.   At Medtronic, we helped other's jobs go better, easier.  The solutions often appeared mystically technical. 
“When did we ever accomplish anything without investing in improving relationships?” I asked her.
“What happened if we didn’t invest in relationships?”
“Nothing or it fell apart after we left.”
At a moment of negotiation frustration, I told Bill Minge my Medtronic experience, then added, “This house selling process completely lacks relationship building.  No wonder we don’t trust each other.  It’s amazing it works at all.”  From across our breakfast nook table, he quietly sipped his tea and shrugged, “That’s the way the process is.”
Indeed!  Problem is, sparing Herculean emotional effort on my part, it’s easy to imagine these buyers as evil.  Greedy.  Out to get us.  And boy oh boy do they deserve whatever I can dish out.  There!  I’m pushing out the close date.  I don’t care if you and your snotty little children have to move twice.  Take that!  I’m not fixing the gasping hole in the window.  Contract doesn’t say so, so I’m not.
As the monster of opaqueness gnaws my better self, I look around at the world I live in.  How many “transactions” occur without transparency, without knowing who I’m working with?  Products and services, even for the care of my mind and body, flow through increasingly anonymous streams of delivery, arriving packaged and purchased at my feet.  I’ve sacrificed relationship on the altar of convenience.  Without relationship, where is my better self?  Where are you?  Where is the divine?
Lately on Facebook, it’s been a joy to read and see all the conversation and photos about relationships, divine consciousness even.  Not once do I recall anyone ever saying they experience relationship or post a connecting photo about an anonymous product stream. 
While the ever-growing monster of opaqueness gnaws our better selves, how hard will it be to make real and lasting change. What hope exists for this world’s great leap forward when our fundamental systems deliver without transparency, without a foundation of relationship?    Good grief, look how hard it is just to sell a house to a complete stranger.  Imagine peace with nations who don’t know each other.  As Michael Pollan said in his breakthrough Omnivore's Dilemna, "If there's any new right we need to establish maybe this is the one: the right, I mean, to look."

Fortunately, I live in a world of boundless hope, at least from 5 to 6:30AM each morning as I write my story.  In the Corridor, the fenced in world within our world, Ruth, Amelan and the other Members live according to a principle essentially unknown in our world:  tend your wake.    The story opens with a conflict. 
“I am the Mender,” says Amelan.  “I am called to solve problems by applying the five bridges of mending.”
“My dear Amelan,” says momming Ruth.  “If you fly from one problem to the next, from baby Baara’s infection to the leaking oven, you cannot tend your wake, the unintended consequences of your behavior.   Without committing to really knowing Baara or the oven, how will you ever learn what could go wrong if you tamper with them?  Without committing yourself to a long term relationship, how will you take accountability for what does go wrong?  Something always does after all.”
“Were we not created to experiment?” Amelan asks.
“Of course!  And along with that great gift comes the responsibility to attend our wake.  We alone among all creation, have the power to create and destroy so easily and unintentionally.  I am sorry Amelan, but Mending is experimentation without transparency.”
So every morning, I get to observe how the Members of the Corridor confront the monster of opaqueness as he grows and threatens their very existence.    They remind me to do all I can to step away from opaque transactions.  When I’m stuck in one, like selling my house, they remind me to take the Herculean effort:  at least try to imagine the humanity of the buyers.    Or perhaps even take a bold step out of the system, breath out my monster-induced anger, breath in the divine. 
Maybe then I’ll even invite the buyers to our 4100 Harriet July block party.


  1. Interesting think about your wake. Thanks for the info.